Convicted at Cambridge Summer Assizes, 1812, and executed for Poisoning Racehorses at Newmarket
THIS trial excited much interest in the sporting world. The prisoner was arraigned on four indictments, with numerous counts -- viz. for poisoning a horse belonging to Mr Adams, of Royston, Herts, and a blood mare belonging to Mr Northey, at Newmarket, in 1809; and also for poisoning a horse belonging to Sir F. Standish, and another belonging to Lord Foley, in 1811, at the same place. He was tried and convicted on the first case only.
[Note: Dawson had been tried for a similar crime at the preceding Lent Assizes, and was acquitted on the grounds that he had been indicted as a principal, instead of an accessory, which in point of law could not be maintained.]
Serjeant Sellon opened the case, and detailed the nature of the evidence.
The principal witness, as on the former trial, was Cecil Bishop, an accomplice with the prisoner. He proved having been for some time acquainted with Dawson; and that, on application to him, he had furnished him with corrosive sublimate to sicken horses, as a friend of his had been tricked by physicking his horse, which was about to run a match. He went on to prove that Dawson and himself had become progressively acquainted; and that, on the prisoner complaining the stuff was not strong enough, he prepared him a solution of arsenic. Witness described this as not offensive in smell, the prisoner having informed him that the horses had thrown up their heads, and refused to partake of the water into which the corrosive sublimate had been infused. The prisoner again complained the stuff was not made strong enough; and on being informed if it was made stronger it would kill the horses he replied he did not mind that: the Newmarket frequenters were rogues, and if he (meaning witness) had a fortune to lose they would plunder him of it. The prisoner afterwards informed witness he used the stuff, which was then strong enough, as it had killed a hackney and two brood mares. The other part of Bishop's testimony went to prove the case against the prisoner.
Mrs Tillbrook, a respectable housekeeper at Newmarket, where the prisoner lodged, proved having found a bottle of liquid concealed under Dawson's bed, previous to the horses having been poisoned, and that Dawson was out late on the Saturday and Sunday evenings previous to that event, which took place on the Monday. After Dawson had left the house she found the bottle, which she identified as having contained the said liquid, and which a chemist proved to have contained poison. Witness also proved that Dawson had cautioned her that he had poison in the house for some dogs, lest anyone should have the curiosity to taste it. Other witnesses proved a chain of circumstances which left no doubt of the prisoner's guilt.
The judge pronounced sentence of death on the prisoner, and informed him, in strong language, he could not expect mercy to be extended to him. The unfortunate man suffered the awful sentence of the law, at the top of Cambridge Castle, amidst a surrounding assemblage of at least twelve thousand spectators, it being market-day.